Migration in France - Statistics & Facts

Migration and migratory flows are sensitive and complex societal issues that unleash heated debate in the media and in French homes. As the subject is highly politicized, state data from France and different institutions in charge of the reception of migrants deserves a closer look. The immigrant population is diverse in terms of employment, origins and the reasons for leaving their home country.

History of migration to France

The net migration curve fluctuated widely over the last decade. However, the peak was not reached in 2015 during the refugee crisis. The difference between the number of emigrants and immigrants was highest in 2015. Long before this crisis, France has always welcomed foreigners, several waves have followed one another, such as the Spanish and Portuguese wave during the Iberian dictatorships and the North African wave during the Thirty Glorious Waves (Les Trente Glorieuses). Settled very heterogeneously on French territory, some regions are more ethnically mixed than others, such as the Ile-de-France, where more than 19 percent of the population is foreign. Algerians are the most represented group of foreigners in France, with more than 800,000 people.

The social integration of migrants in France

Migrants and descendants of migrants are more affected by unemployment than the rest of the French population. All the same, migrants can be found in different sectors, for example, in 2018, almost 13 percent of craftsmen, traders or business managers in France were foreigners. However, the direct descendants of immigrants also suffer from inactivity, their activity rate is almost as low as that of migrants. Gender and geographical origin also influence the chances of access to employment. Non-European foreign women are those most affected by unemployment.

Migrants, illegal immigrants, and refugees in France

The reasons for migration to France are in the vast majority of cases mainly due to family or university studies. Issuance of residence permits for economic reasons was very much in the minority in 2020. When foreigners are in an irregular situation on French soil, clandestine migrants have four options: continue in hiding, return voluntarily to their country, receive assistance for their return or be forcibly deported. Since 2013, assisted returns are noticeably less numerous than before.
Among the reasons invoked for obtaining a residence permit, more than 30,000 invoked a so-called "humanitarian" reason. This category includes what institutions call refugees, i.e. any person who has fled their country because of a fear of persecution or conflict requiring international protection. In 2015, Europe welcomed refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Unlike for its neighbours, few refugees arrived in France. That same year, 20,000 refugees were granted asylum, less than one per commune.

France divided on the migration issue

What has been called "the migrant crisis" in France has aroused strong emotions among the French population. The subject divided citizens, with more than 80 percent of the French saying that it could not be discussed peacefully. Although the majority of the French consider their country having a responsibility to welcome migrants, they are a minority in thinking that France has the economic capacity to receive them. On the other hand, more people than ever think that foreigners living in France should have the right to vote in all local elections.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 27 most important statistics relating to "Migration in France".


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